Busted Halo

Vanessa Gonzalez Kraft tries to balance her traditional Mexican-American cultural heritage and Catholic identity, personified by her grandmother La Lupe, with her roles as a young wife and mother.

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July 29th, 2010

Being Mexican-American can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people.  Err on the side of Mexican and you’re un-American.  Err on the side of American and you’re a sell-out.  It reminds me of that scene in Selena when her dad completely freaks out, “We have to be more Mexican than the Mexicans and more American than the Americans, both at the same time! It’s exhausting!”  It’s a little melodramatic but sometimes I feel the same way.  I feel like I can never satisfy either side.

There are so many ways people live out their Mexican-ity.  I have friends that are dark-skinned, have an accent when they speak English and yet don’t speak Spanish at all.  I have friends that were never taught Spanish or anything about their Mexican background but decided to take charge of it in college and learn Spanish and the culture and live as if they grew up in a Mexican household.  I know people who go by Louis when their name is really Luis.  I know people that have taken on an Aztec name in place of their name to be more true to their roots.  I find all these differences …

July 29th, 2010

gameofdeath-flashA French documentary, which aired this spring, argues that we’d do anything to win a reality television show — even kill another human being.

The film, called “The Game of Death,” features players in a fake television game shocking fellow contestants if they answer a question incorrectly. The directors of the film found some 80 contestants and auditioned them to take part in a game-show called “Zone Xtreme,” where other “contestants” (actually actors) were asked questions while strapped to an electrified chair. If the actor gave an incorrect answer, the contestant was encouraged to administer an electric shock as punishment, while the crowd roared approval.

Christophe Nick, the maker of the documentary, told the BBC that 82% of the participants shocked the actor-contestant.

“They don’t want to do it, they try to convince the authority figure that they should stop, but they don’t manage to.”

gameofdeath-inside1The idea for this show comes from the Milgram experiments from the 1960s, which demonstrated people will do horrible things if someone in a position of authority tells them to do it. Mr. Nick, the documentary’s producer, said his results outstripped even Milgram’s findings, with 4 out of 5 contestants going against …

July 27th, 2010

Ok, look at this ad quickly…

barbie ad

Looks normal right?

Yeah, these aren’t human beings, they are Barbie dolls.

Thanks to the blog Sociological Images, for highlighting the find from Sarah Barnes at Uplift, an online magazine.

Honesty is a virtue — as is beauty, arguably. But wow, are these two ideas in conflict here. What’s freaking me out (and other women) is that at first glance we don’t even notice that the women are fake. We’re that used to seeing airbrushed models that we just see this as yet another display ad for some fashion show or product.

This is problematic. While I don’t need to see rolls of fat on models either, it’s probably time to acknowledge that, in the quest for “perfection,” we’ve lost touch with reality.…

July 23rd, 2010

So I’ve taken up golf this past year in Austin.  I have mixed feelings about this development in my life.  Yes, I am enjoying the game… but I still can’t shake the feeling that this is somehow a natural progression of my priestly formation.  Priests and golf seem to be so synonymous that I wouldn’t be surprised if the bishop handed me a seven iron right after putting the oils on my hands during the ordination service.

This development in my life makes me wonder what will be coming next.  Seriously, it CAN’T really be wearing cardigans.  So many priests I know wear cardigans, but that can’t be allowed to happen.  Catholic teachings on the sanctity of life aside, I am really going to have to find some trusted friends who will agree to give me the business end of a Colt 45 if I ever start to wear cardigans.  (Okay, maybe I’m being  extreme, but I would would hope that someone would at least slap me.)

But in the area of golf, I suppose if the President of the United States has also taken to golf recently—someone who regularly plays basketball with pro players and had Jay-Z at his …

July 22nd, 2010

obesity-flashDr Jason Halford tells MedicalNewsToday

Anti-obesity drugs haven’t successfully tackled the wider issues of obesity because they’ve been focused predominantly on weight loss. Obesity is the result of many motivational factors that have evolved to encourage us to eat, not least our susceptibility to the attractions of food and the pleasures of eating energy rich foods – factors which are, of course, all too effectively exploited by food manufacturers.

He continued:

As psychological factors are critical to the development of obesity, drug companies should take them into consideration when designing new drug therapies. We’ve learned a great deal about the neurochemical systems that govern processes like the wanting and liking of food, and it’s time to exploit that knowledge to help people manage their eating behaviour.

We all know that to lose weight we’ve got to eat less and exercise more: Calories in, calories out. But we’ve still got to eat something, and that’s where things get tricky. Psychologist George Ainslie has told us for years that it’s easier to control things when you can implement bright lines: Don’t smoke even one cigarette. Don’t drink even one alcoholic beverage. This is why the Atkins diet and other “bright line” …

July 21st, 2010

lalupe-003-house-flashNot that I base all my decisions on this, but I frequently find myself wondering if my choices make me more or less “Mexican”. I think it stems from when I was 12 and my parents and I moved from El Paso to a suburb of Houston. We visited El Paso six months later for Christmas. My cousin told me I sounded weird when I spoke. I asked her why and she responded, “I dunno, you kinda sound like a white person.” Silly but it was just one of those life events that stuck with me.

As I grew up and grew into my faith more, I didn’t only wonder if my actions seemed “Mexican” but also if they seemed Catholic.

My latest dilemma has been looking to buy a house. My husband has started a job that requires him to work from home which has quickly turned our little apartment into a near-unbearable situation. A light-sleeper baby and a hubby that has to make phone calls all day is a bad combination. So, off we went to the ever-frustrating housing market.

We tried to narrow down the neighborhoods in Austin we would like to live in/are reasonably priced.

Gentrification …

July 20th, 2010

ambition-flashI’m fascinated with ambition–and people’s reaction to other folks who want to succeed. Remember a few months back when Kate Gosselin was being criticized for leaving her eight children with nannies to appear on “Dancing with the Stars.” Media reports asked whether her ambitions of fame getting in the way of being a good Mom.

While it’s unlike me to defend the overly dramatic, in-the-spotlight poor parenting of Jon & Kate, that  hubbub got me simmering once more on a fascinating — and thorny — question about ambition: Is it a vice or a virtue?

Asks Atlanta Journal-Constitution blogger Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

If Kate is being criticized for her ambition does that mean other moms should be criticized to for wanting to be successful at their jobs? Should moms be criticized for wanting to make more money, be recognized within their industry or overall being successful in their jobs? Is ambition in a mom a bad thing?

Clearly, there’s a gender double-standard about ambition at play, says Margot Magowan in the San Francisco Chronicle blog. And this idea isn’t new: Debra Condren wrote a terrific book, AmBITCHous, addressing this very issue of women being criticized for ambition.…

July 19th, 2010

monica-faith-in-what-you-eat-flashMaking plans to move in with a kosher roommate has really made me start to think about what I will be eating when I make the move in a month. Recently, I visited a doctor who reminded me the importance of not cheating on my gluten-free diet. It causes all sorts of problems for me (fatigue, skin problems, allergies, and down the line can contribute to diabetes and certain types of cancers). Yet, for whatever reason, I have not taken it as seriously as I should.

It’s funny for me to think about how people who are ordered to follow diets by their doctors for health reasons often cheat, and many times go back to old eating habits, yet people who commit to a kosher lifestyle will never taste a shrimp cocktail or cheeseburger ever again. How come, when it comes to faith versus science, faith makes a much stronger impression?

If you were to read kosher laws in the Torah, you will notice there is no explanation for the reason G-d told Jews to keep a kosher diet. Jewish law, as an FYI, is separated in three categories — laws with rational explanations, laws which require rabbinic interpretation and …

July 15th, 2010

If you’re like me and have been reading the news over the past couple of years, it is hard not to be concerned about the bees… or more importantly, the lack thereof.  The phenomenon of “Colony Collapse Disorder” has been going on for at least the past few years as the nation’s beekeepers have noticed a steep decline in colonies with each progressing year.

BeekeeperSo, being the student for the priesthood, I thought recently that I would do what a man in my position could do; I prayed for the return of the bees during the prayers of the faithful.  When I offered this petition to God, I did hear some giggling in the pews after offering my intention, but I did not care… these are Biblical issues we are dealing with.

After Mass at dinner, a fellow Paulist brother could not help but comment on my somewhat unconventional prayer. The main gist of the commentary was that I could have been praying for something more important, a petition for “world peace” for example.  That perspective, however, landed on a particular nerve.

“I hate praying for World Peace.  I mean, it’s kind of a BS prayer that very …

July 15th, 2010

If Joe the Camel cigarette ads were geared toward the guys, Camel’s recent ads are targeted straight at teenage girls, say anti-smoking activists. I mean, they’re pink, for heaven’s sake. And a clear play on Chanel’s perfume. Camel No 9 Ad1

So that’s bad. But what seems even crazier to me is that, at the same time as the tobacco companies are marketing a dangerous product to young women, there are other young women who are fighting against what seems to be a much safer substitute: e-cigarettes.

Mara Zrzavy, a 16-year-old high-school student joined with other activists to encourage New Hampshire to ban the use of e-cigarettes by minors. Her argument is that kids who wouldn’t otherwise smoke will start with e-cigs, because they are cool gadgets, and then move on to the real thing when they get hooked.

Camel No 9 Ad2Don’t get me wrong. Kids shouldn’t be smoking anything. And we don’t want to encourage kids who would otherwise not smoke to start. (Although they are: Check out this study about how preteens are more likely to abuse household products as drugs than anything else.) But since we know that kids are going to at least try it anyway, let’s be realistic:

Shouldn’t …

July 14th, 2010

LaLupe.wedding.INSIDEEverything seemed to be going according to plan.  La Lupe’s plan for my life was chugging along without a hitch.

I got through high school without any problems.  I started college.  I graduated from college.  I still went to Mass.  I still spoke Spanish.  After graduation I went to work at a Catholic Worker House.  She was proud of me and was always very vocal about it.

I had taken a pretty different path from most of my cousins and she was happy about it.  Most of my cousins graduated from high school, some went on to college, most left the Church.  Children and marriage did not follow any particular order.

I think what makes La Lupe proudest of me, though, is that I am still Catholic and faithful.  She can talk to me about homilies she heard and about La Virgencita.  She can’t do this with many people in my family.  They either don’t listen or tell her that she shouldn’t worship Mary.  We’re able to connect on a deeper faith level.

Up to this point our relationship had carried on without any hiccups.  I never worried about telling her anything and I never felt like I needed …

July 8th, 2010

interfaith-apt-flashIt would only make sense for me, the Jewish girl who blogs on Busted Halo, to find two roommates — one Catholic, one a semi-observant Jew — to move in with. The beautiful part about it is my getting new material for the site.

When it was decided the three of us would find a place together, it was no question we would get along. We’re all in the same industry, have mutual friends, same crazy schedules (3 am work hours) and so on. But what happens if one eats bacon and leaves the lard out all over the kitchen table? And the other gets annoyed about having the lights on all night because of Shabbat.

“Would Annie get mad at me if I asked her if she eats bacon?” Farrah asked. “I hate bacon. It makes me throw up. And it’s not just a Jewish thing. I just hate bacon.”

“What do I need to know about Shabbat? I’ve been meaning to ask about that light thing.” Annie says. “I remember in college, the people across the street would ask us to turn the light on for them.”

So here goes some serious Jewish-Catholic dialogue. And by serious, I …

July 4th, 2010

In 1630, a ship named the Arbella left England bound for the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  On board the ship were religious dissidents who wanted to reform the Church of England by creating a new more purified community… otherwise known as Puritans.

Before the boat landed, Governor John Winthrop gave a sermon entitled “A Model of Christian Charity.”  When he gave this sermon, he wanted to remind the people on board of why they were traveling. And in so doing, he established one of the central ideas about the meaning of this new land that would be passed down for generations.  He said to these early colonists:

For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill.  The eyes of all people are upon us.  So that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken… we shall be made a story and a by-word throughout the world.  We shall open the mouths of enemies to speak evil of the ways of God… We shall shame the faces of many of God’s worthy servants, and cause their prayers to be turned into curses upon us… til we be consumed out of …

July 1st, 2010

As many of you know, I am from the great state of New Jersey.  And when I share that with people I have met at my current assignment in Austin, Texas, one of the things I have been frequently been told is that I don’t SOUND like I am from New Jersey.  Which I understand… in the many years I have spent living away from the land of my birth, I have come to appreciate that the window most people view my home state either has involves Tony_FrankTony Soprano or someone named Snooki (whom I have since learned is actually from Marlboro, New York).

Having grown up in a country-suburban environment, I was largely insulated from incorporating into my speech the verbal-stylings that Frank Sinatra helped make famous.  Still, there are times when my cultural origin sometimes slips out.  It happens when I’m in a Starbucks and I order a cup of CAW-fee.  It also happens when I get mad; one of the many wonderful traits that people from my home state are known for is the frequent use of… ummm… colloquialisms.  Colorful colloquialisms.  Colloquialisms that would sound inappropriate coming from someone who dresses like I do on Sundays.  Yes, …

June 21st, 2010

The following is a reflection for the Feast Day of St. Thomas More, June 22.

In 1952, director Fred Zinnemann released a film that was eventually selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”  The movie was called High Noon, and it starred Gary Cooper as a retired lawman who was being hunted down by a criminal he once brought to justice.  In the film, Gary Cooper had to make the decision whether or not to stand up to this criminal and his posse… or leave town.  While everyone in the town begged him to do the “smart” thing and leave, Gary Cooper decided to stay and face the bad guys in a gun battle to the death.

MFASNow, why am I talking about a 50s western?  Because in 1966, the same director released a movie that would not only win him an Oscar for Best Director, it would win Best Picture.  The film was called A Man For All Seasons and it was based on the life on the saint whose feast we celebrate today: Thomas More.  Much like Gary Cooper’s character in High

June 19th, 2010

VV-fathersday100-flashMan-bashing has become a sport.  And in recent weeks, one study even questioned whether fathers are necessary for raising kids at all.  So perhaps it’s no surprise that fewer people think celebrating Father’s Day is as important as celebrating Mother’s Day, according to a Rasmussen poll.

June 20, 2010 is the 100th anniversary of Father’s Day. Let’s take a moment to celebrate fathers — and men who act with self-control and responsibility generally.

There are nearly 70 million fathers in the U.S., and more than 30 million have kids under the age of 18, according to the U.S. Census.
Mr. Mom is a reality for a quarter of all families with young children: Some 24 percent of the nation’s 11.2 million preschool-age children with a working mom are regularly cared for by dad during mom’s working hours, according to the Census. An estimated 158,000 men are stay-at-home dads whose wives support the family financially.
Dads are spending more time with their kids (although still not as much as Mom)…:Fathers with children aged 3 to 5 in the home read to them 6 times a week on average, compared to almost 7 times per week

June 17th, 2010

VV-contagious-virtues-flashWe generally understand how a virus or flu spreads: I’m sick and I shake hands with you. Then, you touch your nose and… oops, now you’re sick, too. Then you kiss your husband and… oops, now he’s sick, too. And so on. But in recent years, social scientists have begun to consider whether behaviors and character traits can spread in a similar way. Are vices and virtues socially contagious?

A while back, we learned that obesity is contagious: Researchers Nicholas Christakis, a medical sociologist, and James Fowler, a political science professor, found that we’re more likely to gain weight ourselves if our family and friends gain weight. Similarly, we’re more likely to succeed in losing weight if others are trying to do the same.

Then, the same team of researchers found that loneliness might be similarly socially contagious, as could happiness.

The latest from this pair is the finding that acts of kindness can spread rapidly through society, too, giving new power to the idea of “paying it forward” in generosity.

According to WiredScience:

In a game where selfishness made more sense than cooperation, acts of giving were “tripled over the course of the experiment by …

June 1st, 2010

monica-sexcity-flashEveryone who knows me, knows I am a huge fan of Sex and the City. Carrie Bradshaw, NYC columnist with her funky outfits, happens to be my role model. And although I love the show, and liked the movie, I thought a sequel would be a bad, if not a suicidal, idea for the name. But once I found out the ladies will be in Abu Dhabi, I was excited to see what four City girls would be doing in what they call the “New” Middle East.

I’m not going to lie. The first half of the movie, with the Middle Eastern-inspired outfits and scenery made me want to take a trip to this paradise hosted somewhere between dry lands, poverty and political warfare. I even laughed when Charlotte used her maiden name afraid her Jewish name might cause trouble there. I thought to myself if I would do the same. But then things made a turn for the worse. Caution: Scene Spoiler. Samantha got arrested for kissing on the beach, then she wore shorts out in the market where religious men snared at her, and then she dropped her purse filled with condoms and then shoved the condoms …

May 26th, 2010

Icon-PentecostI was working on my homily that I would be giving on Pentecost Sunday and doing what I usually do when I am preparing homilies… procrastinating on the Internet.  So while browsing Busted Halo’s offerings, I noticed that fellow blogger Monica Rozenfeld posted something on the Jewish festival of Shavuot.

As I’ve mentioned before, this past summer I worked as a chaplain in a New York hospital along side two rabbinical students.  Having that experience gave me an even deeper appreciation for just how Jewish our Christian faith really is, especially the Catholic faith.  All of this makes sense if you think about it… but, truth be told, until my theological studies and my experience this summer, I hadn’t really thought about it.

For example, our Eucharistic celebration is a direct outgrowth of the temple sacrifices performed at the Jerusalem temple in ancient Israel.  The baldacchino seen in many pre-Vatican II churches (most notably in St. Peter’s Basilica) is a direct tie to the tent the ancient Israelites used to carry around the Ark of the Covenant.  And when the Greeks wanted to translate the festival of Shavuot into their language, they called it Pentecost.

Shavuot is a festival …

May 3rd, 2010

You know, when I decided to become a priest, there was one big thing I was really struggling with… one thing that I was really going to miss.  Because in my past life, there was something that I really liked to do… and when I looked at the job description of a priest, I realized that my days of doing this one thing were over.

Watching Meet The Press on Sunday mornings.

Seriously… there was nothing better than waking up late on a Sunday morning, grabbing a cup of coffee and a sausage, egg, and cheese sandwich from Dunkin Donuts, and sitting down to watch the weekly political boxing match. And of course, I was usually far from being a passive watcher of the program.  I have been known to hold my fair share of political opinions from time to time (ahem)… and when someone on the screen would say something that I disagreed with, I would never hesitate to express those opinions to the television in a manner so that the people inside the television set could hear me.  Probably in the same way most of the Texas fans in this room would scream at the television when Oklahoma …

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